This week on the 12th September, our Ranger group turned 5 years old! It’s hard to believe that it was 5 years ago I wandered into an unfamiliar church hall with no real idea of who was going to turn up. 6 girls from 3 different Guide units did, and 5 of those girls founded the 1st Turnhouse Senior Section. Most of them have now all grown up and moved away to uni (two will be graduating at the end of this school year – whattt?!)
I took one of those decorate your own cakes down, and two of the girls did this. If you’re wondering about the name, this was a joke the girls made up when the first name survey popped in some of their inboxes back in February. So appalled were they at the idea that anyone thought they should be renamed ‘Skylarks’ or ‘Kites’ or ‘Jets’ they decided if Girlguiding was going to dictate to them their name, they would be the ‘Turnhouse Dictators’ and renamed their what’s app group to reflect this in some kind of teenage rebellion? They forgot about it until recently when they realised the group is still called this. Hence the cake decoration. I’ve been told the reason for the snail is just because one girl likes drawing snails. Yes, my Rangers are a bit weird. But I like them just the way they are!
Incidentally, they’ve all voted now in the more recent survey, which they were still bemused by but seem to be a lot more happy with. I don’t know how they voted. I’m just glad they’ve had their say.
We looked up what ‘anniversary’ this was, and discovered that 5 years you are meant to gift ‘wood’. They asked if I’d we could do something related. We have a really tight budget this year due to census being really hiked up, and girls not always paying subs and being a lot more sporadic in appearing at meetings. But what I did find was some small wooden boxes for £1 each at The Works, and we used some acrylic paints to decorate them. It would have been cool to do some kind of wood carving craft, but in the time/budget I had to prepare it simply wasn’t doable. I already had some paintbrushes for use with acrylic paints at home, so I brought them in for the girls to use.
Volunteers. We have a huge need for them in our area, as Edinburgh has the biggest waiting lists anywhere in the country. I now struggle to make weekly meetings every single week, as my jobs require me to work evenings and sometimes travel to other places overnight. Our unit leader’s husband also has to work away overnight. And we never managed to replace our other Assistant Leader. We also have had at least two units at risk of closure in the last year.
One of our District Commissioners decided to grab the bull by the horns and got us a spot at our local shopping centre. It wasn’t the best time of year to do it as it was summer holidays – but needs must. We hope that by having the stall we got a few volunteer leads plus raised awareness in our city about the volunteering needs.
So what did we do?
- We had a rota of Girlguiding volunteers of all ages. This included two commissioners, two adult leaders, two members of the Senior Section and even a Rainbow and a Brownie! We all wore different versions of the uniform. A mistake we have seen in the past is having lots of volunteers on a stall – and that’s a little bit intimidating for strangers to attempt to engage with.
- We designed a display that hopefully gave a flavour of what Girlguiding looks like in 2017. If we had more time, I think we would have liked to have had more photos of all the sections in action.
- Lots of leaflets that we could hand out to those interested
- Our lovely mascots, which of course included Olave Bearen-Powell
- Tried to use social media in the lead up to encourage people to come along and say hello. I strongly recommend tweeting your local MP/MSPs/Councillors to ask them to come along and RT the info about where your stall will be and when.
What I find is that members of the general public passing by your stall are just wanting to get from A to B and are worried about being asked for money or being sold something. So you need to have people who are willing to approach people and be approachable! A few things which helped attract people to come talk to us were
- Free gifts (in this case sweets, but if your budget allows, I always recommend free pens. Everyone can use a pen so it’s less likely to end up in a drawer of junk or the bin and it’s a good thing to keep reminding them of your organisation when they pull it out to use or lend to someone else in need)
- An interactive element to your stall.
I got a tabletop flipchart from Amazon similar to this one which I also plan to use for Senior Section. This made it easy to carry, and not a hazard if it got knocked over. It also had two sides we could use, so on one side we asked people to tell us their Guiding memories. On the other side we asked what people thought Girlguiding members do in 2017. The Guiding memories question inspired lots of conversations from people of all ages who were wandering through the shopping centre.
All in all it was a lovely afternoon, and worth it. I definitely hope our Division does more of these in our local supermarkets, community events and going back to our local shopping centre. The other side of it was leaders from different sections and Districts got a chance to get to know each other as it’s rare for us to see each other unless we are interacting from sharing a church hall or talking about girls moving up from one unit to another.
Have you been doing anything to promote volunteering opportunities in your area? What has worked well for you?